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March Updates

The Alliance On Tour – Are We Coming Near You? 

The AML Policy Priorities Group is launching a spring AML Educational Tour to share their research with communities across Appalachia. The goal of our research is to recommend policy change through our AML Whitepaper, and share the paper with communities and organizations so they can learn more about how the fund works, and what policy changes are necessary for leveraging these funds into our communities.

The AML Policy Priorities Group is a multi-stakeholder group initially formed to inform the Abandoned Mine Lands Fund research project of two Appalachian Transition Fellows and their host organizations: Kendall Bilbrey, The Alliance for Appalachia and Eric Dixon, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center.

Other recent work from this program includes an Ask the Director Meeting with the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) in Washington, DC. During the meeting, Director Joe Pizarchik and his staff answered questions from citizens about the agency’s work. Several Alliance for Appalachia members joined coalfields citizens across the country in person and by phone. This meeting was coordinated by Citizens’ Coal Council.

If you’re interested in getting more involved in this work, you might join us for the AML In-Person Meeting, April 2nd at the Benham Schoolhouse Inn. Join us for our second in-person meeting in Benham, Kentucky as we discuss our work, present our paper, strategize for the future of the group, and have a collaborative space to learn and build networks.

Other opportunities to engage with this program include:

  • KFTC Land Reform Committee, Prestonsburg KY (Postponed from Weather, TBA)

  • Society for Applied Anthropology Conference, Pittsburgh PA– March 24th

  • Appalachian Studies Association Conference, Johnson City TN– March 27th-29th

  • AML Policy Priorities Group In-Person Meeting, Benham KY– April 2nd

  • SOCM Chapter Tour, East TN — April 6th-9th

  • Clearfork Community Institute, Eagan TN — April 9th

  • Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, Hazard KY– May 8th

To support this important work, or to help us provide scholarships to community members who wish to attend the spring summit to learn more about these issues, donate here!

Back to DC: A Meeting with Allies 

Now is the time for us to work together to push the Obama administration for urgent action to protect mountain communities from the impacts of mountaintop removal and to begin planning for a sustainable future for Appalachia.On Wednesday, March 11th The Alliance for Appalachia hosted an Allies Strategy meeting in D.C.  We convened at the Sierra Club in D.C. and met with a group partner organizations and national allies including RAN, EarthJustice, and Greenpeace. We discussed our policy priorities for the Obama Administration in 2015 and how we can all work together to forward those goals.
While in DC, representatives of Alliance member groups also met with the Department of the Interior with deputy directors of OSMRE and with the Office of Water at the EPA. Both agencies agreed to look into some of our concerns and we hope that we also made some valuable contacts to continue pushing for much needed change from this administration.We’re excited to continue to plan out our 2015 strategy at our upcoming Spring Steering Meeting March 31st-April 1st; it is an opportunity for our member groups to gather to share work updates, set strategy and build our regional work. For more information, contact Samantha@TheAllianceforAppalachia.org

Updates from the Movement: 

Great news! Quakers win a major victory in the fight against MTR!
After five years of action by Earth Quaker Action Team, PNC announced Monday a shift in its policy that will effectively cease its financing of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.

Together we have shifted the policy of the seventh largest U.S. bank! This marks a major turnaround for PNC, who for years refused to budge on this issue. After more than 125 actions, their desire to continue business as usual proved no match for EQAT and our allies. Bowing to pressure from Quaker environmentalists, PNC Bank announced that it will be restricting financing of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. The shift outlined in its 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report means PNC Bank will effectively cease its investment in this controversial practice.

In 2012 PNC Bank financed Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, CONSOL Energy, and Patriot Coal, which together were responsible for nearly half (44.97%) of Appalachian mountaintop removal production. PNC’s total investment was $687.5 million for that year.

The grassroots group leading the charge for PNC’s new policy, Earth Quaker Action Team, hails the change as a major shift by the seventh largest US bank. “When we initiated our campaign in 2010, PNC attempted to placate us with a hollow policy. It’s good to see that PNC Bank is now taking meaningful steps,” says Matthew Armstead, staff coordinator for EQAT. “Since this shift happened because of external pressure, it should be a wake-up call for everyone that the power of change lies with regular citizen activists.”

Read more about this victory on EQAT’s website.

Apply to be an AppFellow!
The deadline for fellow applications for the next cycle of the Appalachian Transition Fellowship is less than a month away! If you are committed to building a just and sustainable Appalachia, you can join a select group of emerging leaders from across the region in the Appalachian Transition Fellowship. The fellowship is a community partnership of innovative regional organizations, institutions, and other emerging leaders. Go here to apply, or send this along to an inspiring young person in your life.

Folks of all ages can apply to attend Wild & Wacky Witty and Wonderful Workshop Week at Highlander, an inspiring week of fun, education and service at the historic Highlander Center.


Putting Their Foot Down: Hundreds Rally at WVDEP

Several hundred people gathered in Charleston, WV on Monday, March 16th for the People’s Foot rally at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The event was hosted by a coalition of West Virginia groups demanding an end to mountaintop removal and working to highlight the devastating effects of mountaintop removal on the health of local residents. MTR and health issues.

Victory!: WV Officials Agree to Examine Health Issues Connected to MTR
In an exciting update, the day after the People’s Foot rally, state officials agreed to examine the science on the links between MTR and health issues. According to this Charleston Gazette article, Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Rahul Gupta said, “The analysis is something that is needed going forward. The bottom line here is to let science speak for itself. It’s time that we attempt to do that.”

West Virginia Groups Sue the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement
On March 17th, seven local, regional and national groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Office of Surface Mining for failing to intervene on West Virginia’s lax oversight of mountaintop-removal and other destructive surface coal mining — a state program that has, for decades, allowed the coal industry to ravage the environment, putting people at risk and destroying local communities.

The state’s chronically poor oversight has included a persistent failure to conduct inspections meant to protect people and the environment from coal companies that operate outside the law. Out-of-control mountaintop-removal coal mining is linked to epidemics of cancer, cardiovascular disease and birth defects in affected communities. West Virginia has also failed to undertake required assessments to ensure lakes, rivers and drinking-water wells aren’t harmed by mountaintop-removal mining and other destructive surface coal-mining practices.

Learn more about this important case at Coal River Mountain Watch’s website.

Coal Industry Scheme to Increase Mountaintop Removal in Tennessee
For years, coal companies have successfully pressured state regulators in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia to ease enforcement of environmental protections, and now they hope to do the same in Tennessee. Those states have what is called “primacy” under federal surface mining law, and with state primacy, mountaintop removal has proliferated.

If Tennessee were to gain primacy, it would not only lead to more pollution, it would be a nightmare for our state’s taxpayers. An effective coal mining regulatory program would cost as much as $4 million annually, and Tennessee only produces around .1 percent of coal mined in the U.S. each year. Instead of allowing the federal government continue to fund the Office of Surface Mining’s field office in Knoxville, Tennessee taxpayers would pick up the tab.

Activists are working hard to stop this push in Tennessee and to protect their mountains from further mountaintop removal mining.

Support Our Work!
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Series of Landslides and Mine Blowouts Show On-going Dangers from Coal’s Legacy in Appalachia:

Congress Should Support Obama to clean up dangerous areas says this editorial by the Lexington Herald Leader.

The History of Spills and Other Disasters in Appalachia are examined by Inside Appalachia, including a look at the anniversary of the Buffalo Creek Disaster.

Hughes Creek Mine Blowout Threatens Local Community 
The West Virginia mine is reported to store toxic coal slurry and has been leaking for days. In the picture below from the Charleston Gazette, green dye is being used to track the water discharge.

Mingo County Mudslide forces evacuation.

Clean up Continues After Mine Blow Out Covers Lynch, KY The highway is clear, but residents still dealing with aftermath; officials are seeking AML funding to cover costs of clean up.

Landslide Near Yeager Airport Destroys Church; Forces Evacuation The airport in Charleston, WV was built on a former mountaintop removal site. The landslide continues to threaten area communities.

More News Updates:

STAY Project Appalachian Love Stories Highlighted  more stories at this link as well. This series showcases Appalachian Pride by members of the STAY Project. Art by Katie Hanna

WV DEP Head Acknowledges Connections Between MTR and Health Impacts; says a “closer look” might be in order.

NYTimes article about our allies’ strategic work to de-fund mountaintop removal companies reflects on the successful campaigns.

Coal Ash Stories Highlighted in Upcoming Film and Discussion SOCM and partners will host a free open community discussion on the continuing impact of Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal ash landfill, the recent lawsuit filed by the state against TVA, and what it means for the future of the Gallatin community.

Kentuckians Advocate for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in this fascinating, detailed look at energy and climate issues in Kentucky.

Summary of Don Blankenship Case by Coal Tattoo for those who are following the complicated tale.

Outrage Around Plans to Rollback Safety Regulations that were passed after the 2014 Chemical Spill in West Virginia.

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